23 December 2018

The Next Imperial Regime (Daniel 6:1-28)

The new ruler of Babylon, Darius the Mede, appointed Daniel chief officer with authority over all his officers. This caused great resentment, so a conspiracy was hatched to destroy the Jewish upstart. Darius was trapped by his own actions and pressured to punish Daniel by court officials.
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     The king regretted his actions but under the “law of the Medes and the Persians,” he had no alternative but to execute Daniel. Through the intervention of an angel, Daniel was unharmed by his punishment and was miraculously delivered unscathed. The next morning the king ordered Daniel’s release and the destruction of his accusers.
     Darius issued a new edict that commanded all citizens to revere Daniel’s wonder-working God. As under the earlier Babylonian rule, Daniel prospered under the new regime of “the Medes and Persians.”
      “Darius the Mede” appointed Daniel first among three ministers of state tasked with the management of his provincial governors, as well as his financial ministers (Daniel 6:1-3).
     Certain governors envied Daniel’s elevation and sought to discredit him. Unable to find fault with his official or personal conduct, they created circumstances to make him appear disloyal to Darius. A written edict was published that prohibited anyone from petitioning any other “god or man for thirty days,” except Darius. This became incorporated into the “law of the Medes and Persians”; once written a law could not be altered, not even by the king. Violators were to be executed.
     But Daniel continued to pray daily to Yahweh despite the new law, conduct that was reported by his enemies to the king.
     Though aware of the new law, Daniel did not alter his prayer routine. His accusers “found him making petition and supplication before his God” (6:11-12). They informed the king and reminded him of the legal tradition that no law could be altered once written. Even a ruler as powerful as Darius was not above the “law of the Medes and Persians.”
     The trap was sprung. Daniel’s enemies accused him of disloyalty to the king. This distressed Darius greatly. He valued Daniel’s services, and so he “determined to save Daniel.” But he was only able to postpone the execution until sunset (6:14). The matter was out of his hands, so instead, he left it in the hands of Daniel’s God. Unlike Belshazzar, this king expressed respect for the God of the Jewish exiles and offered words of encouragement to Daniel (“Your God whom you serve will deliver you”).
     Daniel was cast to the lions and the pit sealed shut behind him. The king passed the night in great anxiety. Early the next morning he hastened to see if Daniel remained alive; he called out to Daniel, “is your God whom you serve able to deliver you from the lions?” Daniel was indeed alive and answered the king. God’s angel had shut the lions’ mouths so they could not harm him. He was “blameless” before God and the king.
     Daniel was removed from the den and his accusers cast in instead. They died an immediate and horrible death (“the lions broke all their bones in pieces before they came to the bottom of the den”). The ferocity of the attack demonstrated that Daniel was not spared because the lions were not hungry; the immediate dispatch of his opponents demonstrated their ravenous hunger. His life was saved by divine intervention; not even the king’s attempt to intervene had been able to save it.

     Darius issued a decree to “all the peoples, nations, and tongues that dwell in all the earth.” He publicized how the “God of Daniel” had reversed his irreversible decree. The salutation of Darius is virtually identical to the earlier one published by Nebuchadnezzar (4:1, “Nebuchadnezzar to all people, nations, and tongues that dwell in all the earth”).
     Darius had decreed previously that no one could petition anyone but him. Now he summoned “all peoples, nations, and tongues…to tremble and fear before the God of Daniel.” The plot to exploit the “law of the Medes and Persians” and to destroy Daniel, instead caused the demise of the plotters.
     The Aramaic word for “destroy” in Daniel 6:26 is the same one rendered “destroy” in verse 22 (“the lions have not destroyed me”) and “harm” in verse 23 (“no harm was found upon Daniel”). Daniel’s miraculous deliverance demonstrated that God’s “kingdom shall not be destroyed,” regardless of the edicts or machinations of kings and evil men (Daniel 2:44).
     As a result, Daniel prospered under the reigns of Darius and “Cyrus the Persian” (6:28). At this point, the book does not make a distinction between Median and Persian kingdoms, but between the “reigns” of two rulers. “Reign” or malkÅ« means “reign” not “kingdom.” The distinction drawn is between the ethnic origins of the two kings (“Mede” and “Persian”).

The first half of Daniel closes with the inauguration of the next world power. Regardless, events continue to prove that Yahweh rules over the kingdoms and affairs of men, and He gives sovereignty to whomever He pleases.
     This story is related to events recounted in chapter 3. In both chapters the Jewish exiles educated in the learning of Babylon aroused jealousy among the ruling class; in both plots were hatched to destroy them.
     In chapter 3 Daniel’s three friends were thrown into a fiery furnace when they refused to venerate the king’s golden image; in chapter 6 Daniel was cast into a lion’s pit when he transgressed the king’s edict. In both stories, the exiles violated the king’s edict because of higher allegiance to Yahweh. In both, the exiles are miraculously delivered from death, and both chapters end with the king issuing another decree that honored the God of Israel and advanced the status of the Jewish exiles.
     Both chapters end by demonstrating that Yahweh is in full control of history, the rise and fall of rulers, and the welfare of His people.

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